Reading and Writing, Writing and Reading

A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.

Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.

Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.

So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.

What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.

This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.

The Earth Sea Love Podcast

1E8D72FE-825D-4610-93AE-1AD5ABAF1203

It feels an age since I’ve been here. But I’ve been busy. I’m been creating a podcast over at Earth Sea Love.
The Earth Sea Love Podcast is a podcast for and about women of colour and their relationship with nature hosted by Sheree Mack. The Earth Sea Love Podcast is committed to exploring the experiences of women of colour with Mother Nature. We want to provide spaces where the hidden voices in the environmental/ conservation conversations can explore their relationship with the natural world.
Inspired by time spent outdoors, we amplify the voices of women of colour; our stories, conversations, interviews, photography, writing and artwork.
We’ll be exploring our legacies, histories and memories which have had an influence and effect upon how we perceive ourselves within the natural world and environmental/ climate justice movements.
This podcast is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
we go live tomorrow 13 July 2020. Be ready to listen in on all the major podcast platforms. 

January Reading

I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.

January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.

But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.

Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.

I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.

Completed January books include:

1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)

2. Turned Out Nice AgainOne Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey

3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross

4. Angel – LJ Ross

5. High Force – LJ Ross

6. Cragside – LJ Ross

7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross

8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross

Ongoing January reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir

Book review in the next post. Thanks.

The Goddess Series is going on show!

I recently got this photograph from the #100daysofthegoddessandlove series enlarged and printed onto photo board.

I sat for a few days with her in my living room exhibited on a black metal easel. I would sit and just look at her. I would say to anyone passing, I made that. I was blown away by how beautiful my work looked. And it didn’t bother me if no one else loved it/ her it was enough that I did. I’m proud of my creation. I look at her and smile. I feel a deep swell of love for her. But really it’s for myself and my achievements. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m ‘doing good’. External validation is not sort or needed.

I didn’t make this physical piece of art to sit in my sitting room though. I’m preparing for an exhibition of prints; prints of the Goddess.

I’ve been invited to exhibit this series at a special fund raising event for a charity which is close to my heart, with which I’ve been developing a relationship with over the last couple of years.

The Angelou Centre, Newcastle, is a unique Black-led space dedicated to supporting and uplifting Black, Asian and ethnic minority women across the North East region of England. This centre offers a holistic approach to improving the lives of these women, some who are very vulnerable and are suffering. At a national level, the Angelou Centre strives to make sure these women’s voices are represented and heard, especially in relation to the issues that they face every day.

The Angelou Centre is celebrating 25 years this year and are organising an inspiring fund raising event to mark the occasion. It seems fitting that the Goddess should make an appearance at this special event because she is so very good at teaching myself and others what it really means to love and care for ourselves. There will be music and dancing, food and spoken word. I will be performing my poetry and reciting ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. Such an honour.

I’m looking forward to the event but also nervous as I will be exposed in more ways than one on the evening. But I know in my gut that I’m so ready for this.

Friday 25 October, at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth Park. More details can be found here. See if you can come along. It’s for a great cause.

Art Journal Play

When things get overwhelming, I take to colour. I think this is the reason I love Autumn so much. The myriad of colours; crimson, pumpkin, golden and umber. See what I did there? I elevated my vocabulary as sometimes I can be lazy and just use the obvious.

Anyhow. Back to the colour fields. Playing with colour fills my pot. Shifts my energy. And makes me happy. A simple task but well worth the effort.

Lately, I’ve started new journals. Square journals. Altered books. Notebooks. Any blank page I can fill with colour I will. I share some of the results here to inspire you to play. To let go and just lose yourself in the process. Forget the result. Forget perfection. And surrender to the joy of play.

Flaneuse roundup and other things

The month draws to an end. And so does my challenge of walking out every day, taking photographs and reflecting on the practice. I didn’t manage it every day as mid-way through sickness hit our household. But I do think I completed more walks than if I wasn’t trying to complete the challenge.

Today was a glorious window of light, that I’d be a fool to miss out on. So it was a quick dip in the bay and it was bitterly cold. And then a brisk walk along the shore to warm up. It was a great way to start my day and help with productivity for the rest of it.

As promised to my Patreon sponsors, I delivered my first essay from the forthcoming mixed genre memoir. I’ve made a commitment to share one essay and reading list that I used to complete the essay at the end of each month for the rest of the year. Yes only four months but still that’s four essays done than not.

The theme was climate justice this month and I enjoyed writing it once I got into it. This essay’s been brewing since I first came across the work of Wretched of the Earth. So the time and space and audience to finally complete the beginnings of an essay around this. This is just a draft but at least I now have something to work with moving forward. Making this commitment made me accountable. For which I am thankful.

You can jump on Patreon for as little as $1 to read it if you want. And as always, I appreciate feedback, comments and arguments.

Here comes October, my birthday month. Yay!

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

My Favourite Influencer

748C3C6D-AAB5-4F54-8DA1-65CAEF5B9DF2

I’ve started my second #100daysproject of 2019. Joining in with the official challenge, #The100dayproject, I’ve decided to focus on created images where I see myself reflected, #100daysofblackwomen.
I’ve purposely not set up any long, drawn out rules. All I have to do each day is create a face or figure of a black woman. Far too often in art, if a Black Woman is present, she is not represented in an empowering or positive way. She might be the servant, or a sexualised object, ridiculed and degraded.
I want to look upon art and see my multifaceted identity reflected; the good and bad, the truth.
It’s only been in the last few years really that I’ve embraced this practice of creating, painting black women. I know taking Painting the Feminine with Dirty Footprint Studios, hosted by Connie Solera has influenced this development. Creating within a supportive group of women and gently pushed into our own ideas of what femininity can be has been a catalyst for
my explorations and expressions.
A recent discovery has pushed me further into my own visual language. This has been finding the artwork of Mystele Kirkeeng and then watching her create her pieces.
Watching Mystele and learning about her practice and techniques gave me permission to trust my own messy process. Seeing her process made me value my own for the first time and to lean into it more. It’s such a glorious feeling to finally believe in what I create at the same time as not worrying or stressing about whatever anyone else thinks about my artwork. Mystele reminds of the joy and excitement I can have for my own creativity. And this is priceless.

A favourite quote …

It’s difficult to pin down my one and only favourite quote as I love so many. I use quotes as inspiration, as thought points, as guides.

At the beginning of each Studio Note I send out to subscribers, I include a quote, to set the tone, to ease into the topic of discussion.

Toni Morrison is always a favourite writer I quote because it was her book, The Bluest Eye, where I first found myself in literature. Before that, I always had to identify with the white female lead in the story. I found myself wishing I was something I was not; white, blond and blue eyed. In The Bluest Eye, I found myself, a little black girl growing up in a cruel, racist world, thinking if only she was white, then she’d be loved.

My quote isn’t from The Bluest Eye this time but it does touch upon this topic of self-love; my focus this year as my word is LOVE for 2019.

“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved